It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read a swashbuckling pirate adventure, and this was a good one to break that drought. It is adventure/historic novel based on facts about that period of time when pirates and privateers were roaming the waters, particularly in the newly colonised parts of the world. Many were dodging the law before they took to piracy but some were simply looking for an easy way to make a fortune. Others, more or less, ‘fell’ into piracy, either by being captured and forced to make choices (join the crew or die) or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While there were many who were utterly corrupt and without scruples or conscience, others simply play-acted their ferocity and perpetuated their legendary fearsomeness, in order to make their lucrative trade easier. One such was Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard and this adventure shows a different side of him, than that which has been often shown in books and media.
Abigail, eleven years old, lives with her father in the Caribbean. She really has no friends except for slave boy, Boubacar, whose mother Nanny Inna, looks after. Her mother is dead, but even if she were alive, she would be looked after by Nanny, as that’s how it worked in a ‘gentleman’s’ house. Her friendship with Boubacar, is not the easiest as a little girl dressed in muslin and in training to be ‘lady’ cannot associate with a slave boy or play vigorously but they really only have each other.
When the pirate Captain Vane arrives on their island, Abigail learns that her father is not only a cheat but a coward who abandoned his crew to save himself. Vane’s revenge is swift and Abigail and Boubacar are lucky to escape with their lives. Their escape leads them from one tricky situation to another and they are taken on board, Abigail posing as a boy, by Black Caesar, who is looking to restore his service with the notorious Blackbeard. Abigail’s shattered illusions about her father, lead her on an emotional rollercoaster, as she discovers that there can be ‘honour among thieves’.
There are near misses and high drama as she and Boubacar, learn not only new skills but more information about their connection than they had ever imagined. This is an exciting and fast-paced adventure for your middle grade readers and could lead to many wanting to explore more of the famous/infamous names mentioned such as Blackbeard, Black Caesar, Stede Bonnect and Anne Bonney, and places such Charles Town and St Christoper’s Island.
Geography, history, mapping, exploration of other piratical literature and characters would be a wonderful addition to a high-interest topic. Perhaps a class read aloud to coincide with Talk Like a Pirate Day and fundrising would be a fun way to share. Personally I would love to build a unit of work around this. I highly recommend it to you for your readers from around ten years upwards.